When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
-Joshua 5:13-14 (ESV)
In the election aftermath, going on social media was stress-inducing. The biggest disappointment for me was seeing and hearing Christians act contrary to the teachings of Christ. As a pastor, I became aware of how it was affecting me love, serve, and “pastor” some people in the Church. I found myself struggling to love some Christians. I didn’t like this development and wanted to address it straightaway. One thing I did? I deactivated my Facebook account.
I didn’t announce my departure, but people noticed I was not active. When I mentioned I deactivated my account to people who inquired, every one of them endorsed the move. A number of them wanted to do the same.
It was refreshing being away from Facebook. I wasn’t aware of the comings and goings with some friends, but ultimately I did find out the important news when I was talking with them directly.
I was content being off of Facebook, but recently jumped back on the platform for a few reasons I would like to share.
As much as I may not want to see some people I know in a negative light, because (for example) they post vitriol and hate on social media and it affects how I interact with them, I can’t avoid the reality. I’ve been angered by some of the social media posts by friends, people I know, and Christ Community Church (where I work) people, in the election aftermath, that condone and/or encourage hatred toward others. It’s not easy to interact, love, serve, and/or pastor these individuals. In fact, there have been times where I did not want to because of their apparent hate toward a particular people group. (In a recent message, Christ Community Church Lead Pastor, Mark Ashton, joked how some people’s recent Facebook posts violate seven of the ten commandments.) It is easy for me to think I’m better than these individuals. These prideful reactions of mine are not helpful. I am not loving like Jesus asks. I am sinning. (God forgive me!)
Jesus has called us to love one another, to love our neighbor. He didn’t say it would be easy. Jesus called me to love and pray for my “enemies”. These people I know where I have been tempted to pull back from loving and engaging them, they aren’t my enemies. They aren’t THE enemy. I cannot let my attitude and actions fuel the divisiveness that threatens us. I need to love. I need to engage. I need to repent. I need to fight the good fight. Where I live, it’s my community. I play a part in its vitality, and I want to do my part. I love. I pray. I serve. I engage. I am challenged to keep it up.
Deactivating my Facebook account reminded me that I’m in control of my social media interactions. If someone is being obnoxious, or they just want to comment critically on everything without listening? I can ignore, block, unfollow, and/or unfriend them. Recently on Twitter, I tweeted a Preston Sprinkle quote. “We desire to reach the nations, but when the nations reach us, we vote for higher walls.” Some person I did not know proceeded to flood my Twitter mentions with over sixty tweets that were against this tweet, Preston, and me. They didn’t want a conversation. They didn’t want to listen to where I was coming from with this tweet. What they wanted? Who knows. Whatever it was, I knew it was a fool’s errand to try and figure it out on Twitter. So, I blocked them.
When I was the Online Campus Pastor, I sought social media followers because I thought it would help my bottom line with work. While it was impressive to people when I gave them stats with how the Online Campus was “growing”, there wasn’t much there with regard to impact or influence. In the end, the followers were just empty numbers. A few years ago I unfriended 30% of my Facebook friends, and unfollowed a number of Twitter accounts. I wanted to be more intentional with my social media presence. I wanted to connect more with people I know. Being off Facebook reminded me of my previous social media culling. I did it again, and will continue.
And, it’s social media. This year, my most-liked Instagram photo is a picture of a Pokemon-themed mug. I can’t take it too serious. Thoughtful posts pale in views/likes when compared to cat or coffee posts.
Part of the reason to jump back on Facebook came from friends who don’t consider themselves Christians. While they know of my views which do not support a number of President Trump’s actions, personal and political, they understandably took issue with a number of Christian leaders, and 81% of white evangelical Christians*, who supported President Trump in spite of his long list of apparent disqualifications. I have lost track of the number of conversations I’ve had with people, outside the church, wondering why so many Christians are seemingly putting their faith and/or hope in President Trump. They found some of these individuals, with their unequivocal support of President Trump, incredibly hypocritical and offensive. They remember many of these individuals and groups railing against former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. (I remember some people at my church joining an Impeach Obama Facebook Group soon after he won the 2008 Presidential election. Needless to say, Obama wasn’t given a chance by them.) In my own little way, I wanted to be public with my own sentiment. I didn’t want those outside the Church to think everyone inside the Church was moving in lockstep with President Trump and not Jesus.
*I’ve listened to a number of Trump voters that fall into this demo, and know some of them voted for him with many reservations. It’s complicated for them. I’ve tried to share some of their stories with friends who are bothered by Christians who appear to blindly side with President Trump.
It is a long game. I do not want to react to whatever the topic du jour is, and should not feel pressure to do so. I do not want to be swept up in outrage for the sake of it. I want to help others remember there are more important stakes than what all the social media noise may be screaming that particular day. I am following Jesus, not a political party, not a brand, not a social media trend, not a mob. As a Christian, I need to be mindful of the path I am on, where it is taking me, and if I am leading others along with me. When I post something topical that some people disagree with, someone may respond severely. I have experienced it in the past where they then try and hijack the comments section of my post. Whatever. I will not let their actions silence me. Why? Many more individuals read my post without commenting publicly. They often message me privately, or talk to me in person. Thoughtful conversations occur. I want that to keep going. I enjoy it.
I’m in this forever. This being a follower of Jesus, a member of the Church. By God’s grace, I will continue to advocate what I believe Jesus teaches and exemplifies. If that is at odds with a political party’s platform and pursuits, so be it. If that is at odds with someone I know, so be it. I am not seeking to be a contrarian, but I also know following Jesus means being at odds with this world. I will make mistakes along the way. I will sin along the way. I may wander of the path along the way, but I will get back on it by God’s grace. It’s not if Jesus is with me, but rather if I am with Jesus.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. -Matthew 6:10 (ESV)